Facts of the Case:
The 1996 Telecommunications Act (Act) fundamentally altered local telephone markets by ending the monopolies traditionally given to local exchange carriers (LECs) by states and subjecting LECs to a host of duties meant to facilitate market entry. Among these was the imposition of an obligation on incumbent LECs to share their networks with competitors. Following the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) issuance of regulations implementing the Act's guidelines, AT&T challenged their constitutionality on behalf of itself and other existing phone service providers.
Does the Federal Communication Commission have authority to implement the competition-inducing guidelines set out in the 1996 Telecommunications Act?
Yes. In a complicated split opinion, the Court held that the FCC has rulemaking authority to uphold those provision of the Act in question. Despite the local nature of some of the LECs involved, the Court emphasized their interconnectivity with regional and national carriers. As such, the FCC could also reach local LEC markets and regulate their competitive business practices. Such regulatory authority would include the ability to tell LECs what portions of their services they had to share with new competitors, allow new competitors to use local networks without having to own them, and forbid incumbent LECs from separating their network elements before leasing them to competitors.